Send to

Choose Destination
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009 Apr;33(4):654-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00880.x. Epub 2009 Jan 15.

Disparities in alcohol-related problems among white, black, and Hispanic Americans.

Author information

Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, Emeryville, California 94608-1010, USA.



This study assesses racial/ethnic disparities in negative social consequences of drinking and alcohol dependence symptoms among white, black, and Hispanic Americans. We examine whether and how disparities relate to heavy alcohol consumption and pattern, and the extent to which social disadvantage (poverty, unfair treatment, and racial/ethnic stigma) accounts for observed disparities.


We analyzed data from the 2005 U.S. National Alcohol Survey, a nationally representative telephone-based survey of adults ages 18 and older (N = 6,919). Given large racial/ethnic differences in abstinence rates, core analyses were restricted to current drinkers (N = 4,080). Logistic regression was used to assess disparities in alcohol-related problems at 3 levels of heavy drinking, measured using a composite variable incorporating frequency of heavy episodic drinking, frequency of drunkenness, and maximum amount consumed in a single day. A mediational approach was used to assess the role of social disadvantage.


African American and Hispanic drinkers were significantly more likely than white drinkers to report social consequences of drinking and alcohol dependence symptoms. Even after adjusting for differences in heavy drinking and demographic characteristics, disparities in problems remained. The racial/ethnic gap in alcohol problems was greatest among those reporting little or no heavy drinking, and gradually diminished to nonsignificance at the highest level of heavy drinking. Social disadvantage, particularly in the form of racial/ethnic stigma, appeared to contribute to racial/ethnic differences in problems.


These findings suggest that to eliminate racial/ethnic disparities in alcohol-related problems, public health efforts must do more than reduce heavy drinking. Future research should address the possibility of drink size underestimation, identify the particular types of problems that disproportionately affect racial/ethnic minorities, and investigate social and cultural determinants of such problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center